Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region have shown that technology plays an important role in inspiring and organising revolutions against oppressive regimes and dictators.
The protests in Tunisia were started because a twenty-six year old fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in protest of poverty and corruption. By 6pm in the evening of the same day, the cousin of Mohamed Bouzazizi, Ali, had already posted the video on youtube that others were able to see and access that information first hand. The protests in Egypt were started via a Facebook event, providing a spark for the widespread discontent with the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
During the 20th century the internet became a source and means to distribute information through the use of web technologies. Information is readily available like never before. It’s available from our TVs to laptops to mobile phones. We are not only consumers of this information but since the advent of Web 2.0 we have become the editors of the information. Information and in particular, news, is no longer broadcasted by the few. People are beginning to have a greater say in shaping the news. They are blogging and twittering about their lives, local issues and problems and anything and everything is becoming news for people around the world. The blogger moaning about his bad day at work or the tweet that complains about how long the queue is at the supermarket, all have the potential to become headline news for somebody somewhere.
The recent protests in the Middle East are not something new to the people. Tunisia and Egypt have witnessed bread riots during the 1980s but were quickly quashed because information was in the hands of tyrants.
Although it was dictatorships and their tyranny at different levels that created the conditions for a revolution, Web 2.0 acted as an important tool, not only allowing speedy communication throughout the world, but perhaps more importantly by being accessible to all people. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube became useful for the different functions they provided. As Ali Bouazizi explains whilst being interviewed on Al-Jazeera that “using social media we can be heard”.
In a sense a comparison can be made with other tools discovered and invented such as guns. It can be said that ‘guns don’t kill people, it’s people who kill people’. Likewise it was not technology that inspired these current revolutions but they simply played the role of logistical support. As the popular saying during this revolution went, ‘Facebook was used to set the date, twitter used to share logistics, youtube to show the world, all to connect people.’